Economic Development Research Group Blog

The Case for Forward-Looking Energy Program Evaluations

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We need to make energy program evaluations more relevant for decision-making . Most   existing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs have been concerned with confirming the reasonableness of past investments and impacts on utility ratepayers. But there is also growing interest in evaluations of community programs and state public benefit programs, and they need to focus on learning lessons that we can use to make future choices about spending energy dollars. Looking forward, the questions that we can learn from public program evaluations are: (1) How can we most effectively spend public funds?  (2) How can we best design public programs to achieve desired economic and environmental outcomes?  and (3) How can we best prioritize choices among project and programs to maximize our return on investment?  Program evaluations today often fall short of fully addressing these questions. To make program evaluations most relevant, we need to make them forward-looking.  While...
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Community Choice Aggregation Accelerates Renewable Energy Adoption

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EDR Group and its parent EBP are involved in Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) in California, Massachusetts, cities in Switzerland and other European cities. We monitor and participate in a range of CCA efforts. The City of Newton, MA (population 89,000)  just entered a 22 month agreement that will provide 60% local renewables, procured through a competitive bid process. The standard generation price per kilowatt hour for customers will be 11.34 cents.  This compares to Eversource’s winter Basic Service rate (beginning January 1, 2019) for residential customers of 13.70 cents per kilowatt hour. The utliity’s summer rate will be higher.  Under a 1997 Massachusetts law allowing competitive electricity purchases, about 40 communities now purchase their electricity for the entire community, businesses and residences, significantly cheaper than the basic service rates provided by regulated utilities.   Community Choice Aggregations have been effective at lowering electric rates but over time they have evolved into vehicles...
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Community Choice Aggregation: Moving from just Cheaper Electricity to Greener Electricity (that’s getting cheaper too)

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In 2018, communities in six states are leveraging their buying power for electric supply through Community Choice Aggregations (CCAs). What’s new in this 20 year phenomenon is electric supply bids increasingly include renewable components at the same or lower rates than utility basic service rates. EDR Group is working in community aggregations from Massachusetts to California.  We are currently reviewing the Clean Energy programs operated by Massachusetts’ Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), including their work in fostering CCAs. The Massachusetts experience shows how the markets are responding to more abundant and cheaper local renewable electricity supply. A 1997, Massachusetts electric deregulation statute enabled communities to aggregate their electric demand and usage and seek bids from competing electricity generators. Procuring electricity for entire communities or groups of communities increases buying power, leading to lower electric supply rates for all types of customers in the aggregation.  The Cape Light Compact was the first...
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Community Energy Initiatives: Evaluating Their Achievements

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Energy program evaluation has sure changed! Programs to support efficiency in energy use and renewable power sources go back 40 years, following oil crises in the 1970s. Utility companies were mandated to provide incentives to users via “demand side management” conservation programs. These were followed by public rebates for investment in renewable and efficient technologies. The programs were evaluated for effectiveness, and initially there was great concern about net benefits -- not counting “free riders” (who would have made the energy efficient choices even without the program). EDR Group was a part of these evaluations from its beginning in the late 1990s, and our work featured measurement of both economic impacts and net benefits. Now today, we are in a world where energy solutions are more broadly appreciated for their economic, social and environmental sustainability benefits.  And now we are seeing sustainable energy initiatives being taken by residents and municipalities –...
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